College Basketball

Charlotte 49ers basketball coach Alan Major returns to work after 4-month medical leave

Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball coach Alan Major returned to work Monday after a four-month medical leave of absence.

In an exclusive interview with the Observer, Major said he had operations over the summer to correct an aggressive form of glaucoma in both eyes, as well as a procedure to address an irregular heart beat.

“I’ve got to ease my way, baby-step back into things a little bit here,” said Major, 46, who is beginning his fifth season with the 49ers. “But it’s good to be back and to see everybody.”

Major said he expects to be at full strength when the 49ers begin preseason practice in early October. He will take part in limited team drills over the next few weeks.

“I’ll probably work some abbreviated days, not the 10-12 hour crazy-man days, for a while,” said Major. “There’s no owner’s manual for this. So I’m going mostly by feel. But I’ll be on schedule.”

Major said both of his medical conditions are hereditary. He said he was diagnosed with glaucoma – a disease that can lead to damage in the optic nerve – in 2010, during his first season with the 49ers.

“When I was first diagnosed, the doctors said (the pressure reading) in my eye was three times over what they considered a healthy limit,” said Major. “It can destroy your eyesight and there’s no reversal for that.”

Major used eye drops three times daily to treat the disease until they became ineffective. Doctors told him surgery was the only remaining option.

Major also had a catheter procedure to deal with an irregular heartbeat.

“They wanted to eliminate the irregular heartbeats, but after the procedure they deemed mine not to be a danger and I’m safe,” said Major.

Associate head coach Ryan Odom and assistants Orlando Vandross and Desmond Oliver handled the program’s day-to-day duties in Major’s absence. Major said he was in regular contact by telephone with his assistants during his absence.

“Our coaches, players and support staff did a phenomenal job while I was out,” said Major. “The fact that it’s the same staff we had when we started four years ago and that we have some experienced players meant they were able to take care of business while I was gone.”

Major said a date for preseason practice to begin hasn’t been set. Teams can practice no more than 30 days before their season openers (the 49ers open Nov. 16 at Elon).